New Look Primed for IPO as Owners Said to Seek New Investors

New Look Group Ltd., Britain’s second-biggest retailer of women’s clothing, said it’s equipped for an initial public offering amid renewed speculation that its private-equity holders are seeking an exit.

“It’s a business that’s ready, but it’s not my decision to decide when we should do an IPO or not,” Chief Executive Officer Anders Kristiansen said Tuesday on a call with reporters after New Look reported a decline in third-quarter sales. “It has to be the shareholders that take the decision.”

Apax Partners and Permira Advisers, which backed a 2004 buyout of the fashion chain, are working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to seek new investors, people with knowledge of the matter said last week. The private-equity owners are open to selling either a minority or controlling stake in the retailer, which postponed plans for an IPO in 2010, the people said.

Not all analysts share the CEO’s view that the retailer is ready for an IPO. “It’s still too early to try a float and they must continue to work on rebuilding the track record,” said Nick Bubb, an independent retail analyst in London.

New Look’s third-quarter revenue fell 1.6 percent to 399.9 million pounds ($610 million), with the company citing the unseasonably warm fall weather that also weighed on sales at competitors including Hennes & Mauritz AB and Next Plc.

The retailer will expand in China after exiting Russia due to political turmoil, Kristiansen said. It plans to have 70 Chinese stores by the end of the next financial year, he said, making China New Look’s second-biggest market by store numbers.

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